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Two Presidents And A Maverick: At SMU, A Night With Bush, Clinton And Cuban

Grant Miller
George W. Bush Presidential Center
President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton spoke at the Presidential Leadership Scholars Graduation on Thursday night.

It was a first. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton shared the stage with a different kind of leader: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who’s also on TV’s Shark Tank.

At the George W. Bush Presidential Center,  they honored the first graduates of the new Presidential Leadership Scholars program. Current events fed parts of conversation.

The presidents led opposing parties in office. But for the past six months, they’ve offered civil, funny words of advice on leadership to 60 accomplished adults from across the country. They’re leaders themselves, with different jobs in the public and private sectors.  With George Bush’s brother Jeb and Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary vying to be president, the two were asked how to improve campaign rhetoric.

“I think the discourse generally is lowered by surrogates,” George W. Bush said. “I know Jeb and I’ m confident Secretary Hillary will elevate the discourse. I can’t attest to their surrogates. I can attest to this surrogate. I’m not going to be a surrogate.”

Bill Clinton said he expects vigorous primary campaigns.

“And then whoever wins the two primaries will have a hard debate,” Clinton said. “And we ought to show respect for the debate by trying to be as specific and clear as we can about the policy choices before us.”

Mark Cuban took the stage before the presidents spoke. He didn’t waste time getting to the hot basketball news: star DeAndre Jordan backed off signing with the Mavericks.

“It’s over,” Cuban said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You think for a second, is there anything I can change? You think for another second, what have I learned so I can do it differently next time? And then you move forward and say what are our options?”

All three talked a lot more, about leading through tough times while not giving up. 

They spent time offering serious advice, but always with a sense of humor. 

The KERA radio story from Friday afternoon

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.